As humans we are ever seeking to make meaning of the world around us. Moments of pain and suffering are no different. We tell ourselves that if we can make sense of why something is happening, we can endure it. As followers of Jesus we may be tempted to believe that if we figure out what God is up to or wanting to teach us in our suffering then it will end. Or maybe someone’s told you if you expose and confess sin then your suffering will end. If you’ve ever endured a season of long suffering, unexplained loss or unending pain, you know that these ideas can leave you hopeless and lonely.
In John 16:33, Jesus says these words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
The words of Jesus are clear; we will all suffer. In some form, hardship and trial will be a part of our story until Jesus calls us home, or he returns to make all things new. This reality is hard to sit with. Perhaps though, as we sit with the certainty of suffering in this world, and reflect on the undeserved suffering of Jesus, we may come to know more intimately the depth of his love for us.
Isaiah 53 describes Jesus as ‘despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ In Matthew 5, before his betrayal and arrest, Jesus intimately shares his emotions with his disciples saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death: remain here, and watch with me.” Pause and reread that verse again. Jesus, fully man and fully God, in experiencing the weight of taking on the sin and wrath of God so that every man and woman who believes in him could be reunited with God, is so sorrowful that he asks his closest friends to be near and sit in his suffering with him.
What great hope it is that when we can’t explain our suffering, when medicine fails to bring healing, or when we can’t possibly see how God could use our circumstances for our good and his glory, we can look to and remember Jesus’s undeserved suffering on our behalf. We can remind our hearts and our minds that he is with us in our present suffering, and he understands and can handle the sorrow and grief that we feel.
Isaiah 53 goes on to encourage us that Jesus ‘has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Our spiritual separation from God was healed by his death and resurrection, and he has promised to mend, heal and restore all things upon his coming return.
Brothers and sisters, as we approach the remembrance of the brutal suffering, death and resurrection of our savior, let us not be so quick to find meaning or purpose in our own sufferings that we miss the opportunity to sit in and be covered by the understanding love of our Christ.
- Share with God in prayer any present suffering you are enduring or seasons of past suffering. Be honest and vulnerable with your loving father about your experiences.
- Take 3-5 minutes to sit in silence and think on the sufferings of Jesus. If you get distracted, it’s okay! Bring your mind back to his suffering. Thank Jesus for the suffering he endured on your behalf, in prayer or through journaling.
- If you are currently in a season of suffering, have you invited a brother or sister in Christ into your suffering with you? If not, do so. If you are not currently experiencing suffering, ask the Holy Spirit if there is someone around you that you can love and sit with in their suffering.